________________ CM . . . . Volume XII Number 11 . . . . February 3, 2006


No Presents Please. (Zen Tails).

Peter Whitfield. Illustrated by Nancy Bevington.
Vancouver, BC: Simply Read Books, 2006.
28 pp., cloth, $19.95.
ISBN 1-894965-23-X.

Grades 3-5 / Ages 8-10.

Review by Lorraine Douglas.

** /4


“What a beautiful day!” Guru Walter Wombat declared as he sat in the shade of a large elm tree. “The sun is shining, the birds are singing and I do so love watching the trees swaying in the warm breeze!”

“What a rotten day!” grumbled Grizzel Bear as he stomped through the flowers.

“The sun hurst my eyes, the birds screech and squawk, the trees are in my way, and the wind is messing up my fur!”

Grizzel Bear continued stomping until he happened to stomp right up to where Guru Walter wombat was sitting quietly. 

“What are you doing sitting in my stomping path?” Grizzel demanded.

Guru Walter just sat there. He smiled, he listened, but he said nothing.


No Presents Please is from the series “Zen Tails” in which a classic philosophical story has been adapted to picture book format with a cast of animal characters. Each of the stories is intended to teach an ideal, and each also contains the original Zen tale. The animals are divided into three groups - the enlightened ones or teachers, those on the path or students, and those who have forgotten the way or the fools.

internal art
     No Presents Please features the Wombat who is a serene and completely unruffled teacher in the presence of the angry Bear who is one of the fools. The Bear is in a rage, and Wombat refuses to react to the Bear’s anger and finally tells him that he does not want the Bear’s “presents.” An explanation at the end of the book tells the reader that you do not have to be angry just because someone else is angry. The Zen Tales section relates how Buddha remained calm in the presence of anger. Like other books published by Simply Read, No Presents Please is handsomely produced and has beautiful page design and high quality paper. 

     A major problem with the book is that the presentation and the content appear to be for two different age levels. The picture book format and the brightly coloured anthropomorphic characters would appeal to preschoolers, but the content requires a much higher level of reasoning and thinking skills to understand how moral ideas underlie personal choices and actions.  Even adults would have difficulty with the idea of remaining calm in the face of an abusive person. 

     This is the kind of book which could find an audience in alternative bookstores. The aim is well intentioned, and some families who want to incorporate ideas about spiritual practices and philosophies into their lives may find it useful. 

Recommended with reservations.

Lorraine Douglas is a retired librarian who worked in children’s and youth services for over 25 years at the Winnipeg Public Library. She now lives in Sidney, BC, and is an artist and writer.


To comment on this title or this review, send mail to cm@umanitoba.ca.

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